Just Mercy--A Story of justice and Redemption

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Just Mercy
A Story of justice and Redemption
By Bryan Stevenson
Reviewed by Ebele Oseye
 
“The opposite of poverty is justice.” Bryan Stevenson.
 
“They just can’t admit to being wrong, to looking bad.” Walter McMillian.
 
The symbolism of the year 2020 as an occasion for improved vision and for elevated consciousness  is fully represented in a book published  some years ago: Just  Mercy. Author and lawyer Bryan Stevenson wants us to see with clarity the connections between capital punishment, racism, and the enslavement inheritance.  The author wants us to see with clarity the value of human life, the right to live with dignity and respect.
 
With the movie  “Just Mercy” currently available, one  might be tempted to assume that there is no compelling reason to read the book.  But the book, a different, living experience, involves the reader in so many intimate terrifying stories that infuriate to destructive levels of rage. And then a surprising outpouring of beauty floods the human heart and restores balance. This is not the abusive accounting of horror for casual entertainment.  This narrative, heavily researched, informs, inspires and educates.
 
Walter McMillian is the main central character in this book of many characters. Although we know his fate, the   author’s compelling narrative powers will not turn you loose and you feel the full weight of injustice when a man with a conspicuous alibi is wantonly accused of murder because the prosecutors need to find someone to blame and rely on the false testimony of a mentally disturbed  idiot.  The absence of fundamental logic and disrespect for the law create high tensions which approach the frightening and  graphic descriptions of electric chair executions.
 
In Chapter Two the story becomes extremely personal when the author, sitting in his parked car, listening to Sly and the Family Stone is rudely confronted by police who manhandle him. One of the officers points a gun at his head. This violence after enjoying "Dance to the Music" and " Family Affair?"
 
In the sixteen chapters there are so many compelling stories. A young female inmate raped  by a prison guard is forced to deliver her baby while in handcuffs.  Then the child is taken from her.  In another story a slightly built boy, fourteen years old, tries to revive his mother who is unconscious, bleeding heavily after being punched in the face by her abusive  boyfriend. When she does not respond, the  son intends to telephone for medical help. Watch this author put us inside the thoughts and feelings as the teen enters the room where the  drunken boyfriend is flung across the bed, snoring. See how the plan to reach for the telephone is subverted by the hand finding the boyfriend’s gun.  This story alone is invaluable as it articulates  life’s multiple and frightening complications.
 
The beautiful pacing, exquisite human interactions, powerful characterization, deeply researched materials identify Bryan Stevenson as an author of great compassion and extraordinary talent, an author who walks with the ancestors. In the face of so much cruelty, in view of an American history that consistently glorifies the slaver and vilifies the enslaved , it is more than a miracle watching the author deliver the Feather of Truth which carries more weight than multiple tons of lies, historical lies.
 
At the midpoint of the book bomb threats begin. The author often spends many 18 hour days working for justice, working to save a life.  We have the opportunity to join this pursuit of justice. Can we work together for the abolition of capital punishment?  Even when there is a crime, can we show mercy? Through our collected vision we can recover the sanctity of human life.
 
 

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